Marathon Runner Casey Nelson Talks Motivation

by | Jun 2023

Casey Nelson California International Marathon

Casey Nelson after competing in the California International Marathon in December. Photos: Casey Nelson

Take a behind-the-scenes look at one local’s marathon journey.

For Casey Nelson, staying active after retiring from collegiate athletics was a must. He graduated from the University of Minnesota-Duluth in 2005 and, after returning to the Twin Cities, Nelson’s time spent on fields and courts with friends began to wane.

Luckily, his background in sports gave him a natural leg up on his next venture.

“After I got back to the Twin Cities, I decided to try running out of the blue because I knew I could do it by myself and eventually join a group,” Nelson says. “I started to just run 5 miles daily.”

After gaining confidence and leaning into his natural abilities, Nelson decided to take it back to where it all started and ran his first marathon: Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth in 2006.

“I just jumped right into it, and I didn’t know how to train. I didn’t know how to hydrate. I didn’t know any of the specifics of it,” Nelson says. “And I think the weekend before the race, I did my longest run, 11 miles. I kind of figured if I got close to doing half the distance, I could do all 26 miles the next weekend. Now, I know … you never want to do [your] longest run before a marathon.”

Even after the beginner’s blunder that left him sore for weeks, Nelson instantly fell in love with marathon running. Now, he knows just how important training is and how to let his body rest in the days leading up to the big day.

Nelson occasionally hires a running coach during the build-up to a marathon. The coach not only helps him train, but keeps him on track. “I wanted to be held accountable. It’s what keeps me motivated. [The running coaches] put together a workout after I tell them my goal or the run time I want to achieve,” Nelson says.

But Nelson’s biggest motivator is his wife and children. “I have a 5, 7, 10 and 11-year-old,” he says. “I want to show them that, you know, you can do hard things and stick to them. So that’s really, really my main motivator.”

Recently, Nelson participated in the New York City Marathon and the California International Marathon in Sacramento, California, where he achieved his personal best. In both instances, his family was there, cheering him on.

Casey Nelson with  wife, Lisa Nelson, and daughter, Leni Nelson

Casey Nelson with wife, Lisa Nelson, and daughter, Leni Nelson, after he raced the New York City Marathon in November.

“It’s definitely nerve-racking to be out there,” Nelson says. “The anticipation and all, and then once the gun goes off and you start moving and thinking. That’s when I look down at my watch and start to break up the run into shorter sections, so I time myself correctly and can keep up my pace,” he says.

But once those nerves ease, Nelson is setting sail to the finish line, and all of the work he put into the race pays off when he crosses the line to his smiling family. “That’s the best part, seeing them and going to grab fries and a drink after and of course … getting your personal best,” Nelson says.

Instagram: @beardontherun


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